Many women have problems with vaginal dryness at some point in their lives. A dry vagina is the leading cause of sexual dysfunction, as it can leave a woman with an itching and burning sensation and lead to painful intercourse. There are many treatments available to combat vaginal dryness, such as creams.
Normally, the vagina produces a lubricating fluid to assist penetration. The amount of lubrication produced (and whether the amount is sufficient) can be influenced by a number of different factors, including:
Over 80% of women suffer from vaginal dryness during perimenopause. For women who stop in the middle of HRT treatments, symptoms of vaginal dryness may be more severe.
- Frequency of sexual intercourse
- Antihistamines or decongestants
Vaginal dryness can also occur if the ovaries are removed or when estrogen levels are lower. The hormone estrogen helps the lining of the vagina stay thick and moist. When estrogen levels decrease, the walls of the vagina become thinner and less elastic, as well as drier and more fragile.
What Are the Treatment Options for Vaginal Dryness?
Irritants linked to increased dryness include soaps, detergents, shower gels, scented sprays, and other products containing allergens, dyes, or fragrances.
There are several options to address the symptoms of vaginal dryness, one of which is vaginal creams. Before starting, it's important to be well hydrated and avoid products that may increase your vaginal dryness and irritation. Regular sexual activity can boost vaginal moisture after menopause.
If dryness is a problem during intercourse, applying a lubricant can increase vaginal comfort. Use a lubricant that is water-based, soluble, and slightly acidic so that it matches the body's own fluids. Choosing a slightly acidic lubricant also helps inhibit yeast growth.
Though lubricants are good for occasional dryness during sexual intercourse, vaginal creams are formulated to help improve the overall health of the vaginal tissues and moisturize the vagina over a longer period of time. These creams are generally applied two or three times per week. Moisturizing creams should also contain the necessary acidity to prevent infections.
In addition to creams, there are other solutions. It may be that you are not aroused enough, or that it takes longer to become aroused. Try having longer foreplay, and work with your partner to see what stimulates you. Some herbal remedies have also been traditionally used for treating vaginal dryness, although many of them have not been scientifically proven.
If you are still encountering problems with vaginal dryness, talk to your doctor about other options. Vaginal estrogen rings and tablets can be prescribed to help increase estrogen levels in the vagina, stimulating lubrication.
If you are experiencing a large number of other menopause symptoms to severe degrees, you may also want to have a frank discussion with your physician about the risks and benefits associated with hormone therapies and other treatment options for vaginal dryness.
- "Vaginal Dryness". Mayo Clinic Health Resource. 2007
- The Changing Body: Menopause Handbook.(n.d)."Vulvovaginal Symptoms". Retrieved from www.menopause.org
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003